By Ernie McCray
This holiday season has been like a dream, one nice moment after another, filled with tamales and smiles.
On the day before Christmas Eve I steered my Murano to Casa Contenta Norte, the name my sidekick, Maria, and I call her house (mine is Casa Contenta Central and her house in Zihuatanejo is Casa Contenta Sur) – and suddenly I was in the midst of extended families and friends making just about every kind of tamal that can be made, by the thousands it seemed – while in the background an iPad played Christmas songs displayed dramatically in R&B style: “I-I-I am dreamin’ of a white, doop doop doop doop doop, Christmas”… the Temptations bumping “Little Drummer Boy” with a Motown sound, making you want to get down… all smiles, no frowns…
And children ran and played as the tamales were made and I became the watcher of my grandson, Lyric, who, as a nearly 19 month old little boy, tried to keep up with kids much older who would have and almost did, a couple of times, run over him like a dune buggy would roll over a mound of sand if I hadn’t been on hand… But he was so delightful, seeing a painting of me on the wall and going “Eh” as he turned and pointed at me. The dude is smart as he can be… He made me smile continually…
We all laughed and teased so freely and easily and we sampled some of the tamales and everyone took some home and there were still tamal after tamal remaining, as far as one could see, it looked like…
On Christmas Eve we sat down to simply enjoy each other’s company and dine on pozole and other goodies and more tamales as they appeared to not, in the least bit, be decreasing in quantity… There sure were a lot of smiles in that gathering of humanity that represented several ethnicities, black, Filipino, white (Irish), Mexican…
And on Christmas day we were off to Maria’s daughter’s house to see her grandchildren open their presents with as much glee as there can be… LEGOs made a fortune from this family… And we joked about how, when kids are not nice but naughty, Santa, if he brings them anything, just drops something down the chimney from the 99 Cent Store… And we ate more, as it had become obligatory if we were to ever reach the last bite of those tamales… I smiled as I thought “Tamales must beget themselves.”
Then we headed to Jesus’s (Maria’s brother) house to take him and his family, you guessed it, some tamales, most of the rajas and cheese variety, cracking up over his “So far nobody has seemed to receive any gifts around here” answer to “And what did St. Nick bring you?” and clowning about what is there to like about nice people with all their goody-goody positive attitudes. Silliness and good times galore… So many smiles, with more in store…
We then took some tamales to my first wife’s house where we hung out with my three older kids and five of my grandkids and one of my great-grand-kids and a few longtime friends. What a nice smile-filled time we had talking about a few members of our Family Tree, about one of my grandchildren, particularly, who’s navigating the modeling world, looking as handsome as a man can be and my mother who none of the grandchildren had ever seen, but had heard about what a wonderful woman she happened to be.
Later we ate some pozole for a night-cap and tried to act as though the tamales were all gone, knowing that was not the reality as stuffed corn husks still appeared to be Casa Contenta Norte’s kitchen decor. It looked like a Tamales R Us retail store.
I missed my younger kids and wished that I could have driven to Arrow Bear, between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, to take them and their aunt, whom they were visiting, more tamales than they could ever imagine.
I could picture them in my mind because we, as a family, have spent many a white Christmas, at Aunt Diane’s place. I could see the fireplace roaring, the kitchen and all the vegan delicacies, all the smiling faces like mine, in the moment, as I imagined Lyric playing in the snow for the very first time, smiling with delight. It’s hard not to smile while flying down a hillside on a sled or inner-tube.
I find myself, as I bring my thoughts to an end, smiling just because of the break from the troubles of the world the Holiday Season brings, all the cruelties and the miseries and the agonies – the suffering.
I realize that there are people in the world who would give anything for a tamal or two so I like to think, that after those of us who are blessed with good times are through with the joy of it all, we can get back to working towards the creation of a world where we can truly say “to all a good night,” a world of plenty for all, a world of joy and harmony with everyone being merry and bright. A world of peace.
A world worthy of a smile.
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/
Editor Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 29, 2014